Open Government Initiative
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Social Security Administration (SSA)
2011 Open Government News Archive

Social Security and Medicare in 2012


Remember, the 3.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with Social Security payments in January 2012. Increased payments for SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 30, 2011. The standard Medicare Part B monthly premium will be $99.90 in 2012.

For people who did not enroll in Medicare Part B during their initial enrollment period at age 65, the annual "general enrollment period" runs from January 1 to March 31, 2012. Coverage begins on July 1 of the year a person enrolls. Monthly premiums increase 10 percent for each 12-month period a person was eligible for, but did not enroll in, Medicare Part B.

Social Security During the Holidays


The holiday season is the busiest time of year for many people and businesses and it is certainly a busy time for Social Security. That's why we encourage anyone who needs to do business with Social Security over the busy holiday season to go online to If you need to call or visit a Social Security office, we will be closed December 26, 2011 for Christmas and January 2, 2012 for New Year's.

If you need to do business with Social Security during the holidays, you may experience more busy signals on the telephone and longer wait times in local offices.

Don Francisco Spreads the Word about Social Security's Spanish Website


There's an expanded suite of services offered in Spanish at One of the new services is the ability to apply online for Social Security retirement and Medicare benefits in Spanish. Visitors to the site also can apply for Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug costs, use the Retirement Estimator, and read a number of publications. It's all available in Spanish at today!

Don Francisco, host of the television show Sabado Gigante (or Giant Saturday) since 1962, is helping us spread the news with a series of television Public Service Announcements.

Social Security Again Rated One of the “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government”— Agency Continues to Earn High Marks by People Who Know Them Best —Their Employees


The Social Security Administration once again ranks as one of the top ten “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government,” according to The Partnership for Public Service and American University’s Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation. The number six ranking not only identified Social Security as one of the “Best Places to Work,” but it is proof that the Agency’s commitment to treat its employees as its most valuable asset has proven successful.

“I am thrilled that we have again made the list of the top ten “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government,” said Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security. “This validates our long-standing belief that the Social Security Administration is a great place to work and has a very important mission. I am very proud of our employees who are committed to providing the vital services on which the nation depends, despite years of underfunding, growing workloads, and other daunting challenges.”

The “Best Places to Work” rankings are based on the results of the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, a government-wide assessment that measures employees’ perception of whether, and to what extent, conditions characterizing successful organizations are present in their agencies. The survey provides valuable insight into the challenges agencies face in maintaining an effective civilian workforce. The survey identified effective leadership and employees’ skills-to-mission match as the most significant contributory factors of overall employee satisfaction and engagement.

Social Security attributes its success to:

  • Effective Leadership,
  • Developing and retaining a highly skilled and innovative workforce, which reflects the American public,
  • Training employees and giving them the tools they need to work at their highest potential, and
  • Increasing employees’ opportunities for advancement.

“In a tough economy, President Obama is trying to make it easier for Americans to work for the federal government,” said Commissioner Astrue. “I hope our ranking raises awareness about public service among the best job seekers and affirms that a career at Social Security is a great choice.”

To learn more about the report, please go to

Social Security employee selected as SAVE Award finalist


A Social Security employee has been selected as one of four finalists by the White House in the President’s SAVE Award program. Federal employees from across the country submitted nearly 20,000 cost-cutting ideas, and tens of thousands more weighed in by casting votes in support of their favorite submissions.

Learn more about the President's SAVE Award

Disability Benefits Expedited for 13 Immune System and Neurological Disorders


Social Security is adding 13 new conditions involving the immune system and neurological disorders to the list of Compassionate Allowances.

The Compassionate Allowances program fast-tracks disability decisions to ensure that Americans with the most serious disabilities receive their benefit decisions within days instead of months or years.

"Social Security handles more than three million disability applications each year, and we need to keep innovating and making our work more efficient," Commissioner Michael J. Astrue said. "With our Compassionate Allowances program, we quickly approved disability benefits for more than 60,000 people with severe disabilities in the past fiscal year."

For more information on the Compassionate Allowances initiative, and to see a list of the 13 new conditions, please read the press release.

Social Security Administration Publishes Customer Service Plan


For over seventy-five years, Social Security has provided hundreds of millions of Americans with a financial safety net. Whether it is after the loss of a loved one, at the onset of disability, or during the transition from work to retirement, we touch the lives of virtually all Americans. Throughout our history, we have strived to deliver compassionate and prompt service to each person who calls, writes, uses our website, or visits our offices.

As required by Executive Order 13571, “Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service,” our customer service plan outlines our strategy to improve service delivery quality, speed, and efficiency. The plan also highlights our signature initiative, video hearings, which use video technology to minimize costs and expand customer access to our hearings process.

Social Security Announces 3.6 Percent Benefit Increase for 2012:Cost-of-Living Adjustment is First Since 2009


Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 60 million Americans will increase 3.6 percent in 2012.

The 3.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that nearly 55 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2012. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 30, 2011.

Some other changes that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $110,100 from $106,800. Of the estimated 161 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2012, about 10 million will pay higher taxes as a result of the increase in the taxable maximum.

Information about Medicare changes for 2012, when announced, will be available at For some beneficiaries, their Social Security increase may be partially or completely offset by increases in Medicare premiums.

The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated. Learn more about the 2012 COLA.

January Retirees Should Apply Now


If you are looking to retire in January 2012, now is the time to apply. The best place to apply is online. It's so easy!

In most cases, as soon as an application is submitted electronically, that's it. There are no forms to sign or paperwork to complete. In rare cases when we need additional information, Social Security will contact you. You're always first in line when you go online to

President Obama Addresses the UN General Assembly on Open Government


On September 20, 2011, President Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly and a host of partners to discuss a range of international issues. The president outlined progress around the world in implementing the principles of his Open Government Initiative.

The United States and seven other founding nations of the Open Government Partnership are delivering concrete open government plans to continue to make their governments more open, transparent, and accountable to their citizens. In addition to describing several initiatives from the U.S. Open Government Plan, the president looked forward to further international expansion of the Open Government Initiative.

Read more and watch the video...

Social Security: Towards Greater Openness


At Social Security, we are committed to increasing our transparency and improving communication with the public, our external stakeholders, and our employees because clear, concise, and open communication is essential to good public service. So when President Obama called for greater openness across Federal government, raising the bar even higher in these areas, we welcomed the challenge.

In advancing the principles of Open Government, we are sharing more data, expanding opportunities for public dialogue and participation, and using technology to collaborate in ways we could not have imagined a few years ago.

To highlight a few of our achievements since the launch of our Open Government Initiative, we have:

  • established a dedicated web portal to share information, report on our progress, and encourage public participation and collaboration;
  • published our Open Government Plan based on public input, and are tracking our achievements against the milestones we developed;
  • published over 30 high-value datasets and visualizations on our website and continue to fully support, updating and releasing information as it becomes available (releases include data on service, SSA's programs, and statistical information);
  • completed a Data Inventory & Release Plan outlining steps for releasing future datasets;
  • established Social Security's social media presence, launching the agency's YouTube, Facebook and Twitter accounts (we also set up Spanish-language Facebook and Spanish-language Twitter pages, which have further extended the agency's social media reach);
  • launched the agency's first public video contest, "How Social Security Has Made a Difference in My Life" (view the winning video, Social Security: Real Stories);
  • hosted a webinar broadcast for college students and young workers (Social Security 101: What's in it for me?); and
  • worked with experts to ensure our new online engagement and collaboration tools are accessible to people with disabilities.

We also carried out three flagship initiatives to improve our suite of electronic services:

  • We launched our online Spanish-language Retirement Estimator, which was the first personalized non-English online service in the Federal government.
  • We unveiled a new service-channeling (Online Service Enhancement) tool to help people more easily find the information and services on our website.
  • We published an online Life Expectancy Calculator - another tool to assist people as they plan for retirement.

Looking ahead, we continue to plan and carry out steps to greater openness at Social Security. We are working on an interactive web video event to inform the Hispanic community of upcoming new Spanish-language online services. We are also developing additional video products for use on our website and YouTube channel, in response to input received during our various public engagements.

Through these and other efforts, we will continue our commitment to increase transparency, while still protecting personal information entrusted to us; to welcome public participation and collaboration in improving our programs and services; and to make Open Government more sustainable at Social Security.

Answers to Social Security Questions on the Run


These days, people seem to be busier than ever. Thanks to smart phones and mobile devices, we're able to stay in the know even when we're on the run. For example, any time you have a question about Social Security, it's easy to get a quick answer using our mobile-friendly Frequently Asked Questions page. Just go to from your mobile device. Turn that delayed flight or wait in a grocery store line from wasted time to productive time and get answers to your Social Security questions.

Electronic Payment of All Benefits


Just a reminder that electronic payments are not simply the best way to receive Federal benefits — they will soon be the only way. The U.S. Department of the Treasury's new rule phases out paper checks for Federal benefit and non-tax payments by March 1, 2013. In fact, effective May 1, 2011, all new recipients of Federal benefits, including those filing for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), must receive their payments electronically unless they meet one of the very limited exceptions.

Electronic payments are safer, easier, more reliable, less costly, and good for the environment. If you have clients who still get Federal benefit checks in the mail, have them visit today to sign up for direct deposit or Direct Express.

Social Security Releases Final Plan to Implement Executive Order 13563


Earlier this year, President Obama outlined his plan to create a 21st-century regulatory system that is simpler and smarter and that protects the health and safety of the American people in a pragmatic and cost-effective way. As a key part of that plan, he called for an unprecedented government-wide review of rules already on the books in order to remove those that are out-of-date, unnecessary, excessively burdensome, or in conflict with other rules.

Learn more about Social Security's plans to Implement Executive Order 13563

Social Security Benefits Will Be Paid On Time


Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, announced today that Social Security payments for August 3rd will be made on time and as scheduled. Payments for August 10th, 17th, and 24th also will be made as scheduled.

“I am happy to announce there will be no delay in the payment of August Social Security benefits,” Commissioner Astrue said, “which should be a relief to those people who were concerned about their benefits. I’m pleased the President and Congress were able to come together in a bipartisan fashion to avoid an interruption in payments.”

People still receiving paper checks from Social Security should consider signing up for Direct Deposit, the secure and convenient way to receive Social Security payments. All current beneficiaries must switch to electronic payments by March 1, 2013.


Budget Cuts Force Reduced Public Hours


Beginning August 15, 2011, Social Security field offices nationwide will close to the public 30 minutes early each day. That means a field office that is usually open to the public Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. will close at 3:30 p.m. each day.

Social Security to Announce the Addition of 12 New Conditions to the Compassionate Allowances List


Social Security will announce the expansion of the list of conditions that qualify under the Compassionate Allowances program at an event on Thursday, July 14, 2011, 10:00 a.m. in Room 106 at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, located at Constitution Ave. and 1st St., NE in Washington, DC.

Learn more about compassionate allowances and the event

Executive Order 13563 on Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review


Earlier this year, President Obama outlined his plan to create a 21st-century regulatory system that is simpler and smarter and that protects the health and safety of the American people in a pragmatic and cost-effective way. As a key part of that plan, he called for an unprecedented government-wide review of rules already on the books in order to remove those that are out-of-date, unnecessary, excessively burdensome, or in conflict with other rules.

Social Security Releases Popular Baby Names for 2010


Just in time for Mother's Day, the Social Security Administration released its top baby names for 2010. Since 1998, the Social Security Administration has published information on the distribution of given names of Social Security number holders. The popular feature drives a lot of traffic to the Social Security website and helps to promote other important information about Social Security programs and services.

Baby Picture

Popular baby names for 2010

Background information about the baby names data

Social Security Makes Help America Vote Act Data Available


On May 4, 2011, Social Security released data showing the verifications completed for states under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002. Under HAVA, most States are required to verify the last four digits of the Social Security number for individuals registering to vote who do not possess a valid State driver's license. Making this data publicly available shows how often States utilize HAVA verifications.

Help America Vote Verification (HAVV) fact sheet and data

Social Security Celebrates Earth Day


On Earth Day, and throughout the year, Social Security is committed to conserving energy and reducing waste. We have buildings with high-efficiency lighting, solar hot water heating systems, high-performance windows, solar lighting in parking lots, improved HVAC systems, and chilled water system improvements. What's more, we offer many of our popular services online.

SSA's Open Government Plan: One Year Later


On April 7, 2010, we joined numerous agencies across the federal government in publishing our first-ever Open Government Plan. In it, we laid out specific milestones for increasing transparency, participation and collaboration at Social Security. We have worked actively throughout the past year carrying out key open government activities to make Open Government (OG) more sustainable at Social Security. We will continue our efforts as we move forward to carry out our plan.

A summary of our achievements and lessons learned from our first year

Social Security: What's in it for You?


Collage of young workers and college students

On March 10th at 3pm EST, Social Security hosted a webinar for college students and young workers, called “Social Security 101: What’s in it for me?” Participants learned answers to questions like “what’s that FICA tax that comes out of my paycheck?,” “How can Social Security help me at my age?” and “why should I worry about planning for retirement now?” Following the presentation, the audience had an opportunity to pose additional questions during an interactive session.

Sunshine Week and Freedom of Information Day spotlight transparency efforts


March 13-19 is Sunshine Week, when we celebrate open government and freedom of information. The Office of the CIO and the Office of General Counsel are pleased once again to join forces to raise awareness of these two important areas of government.

Working with many others at SSA, we took steps in 2010 to strengthen our transparency, participation and collaboration to make SSA a more open agency:

  • We launched and later redesigned our Open Government web portal;
  • We used an online collaboration tool to get the public and employees involved in shaping our open government and agency strategic plans;
  • We published our Open Government Plan, spelling out our commitments to both the principles and practice of transparency, participation and collaboration;
  • We finished three “flagship” projects, including a life expectancy calculator, a Spanish-language retirement estimator, and a new service channeling guide (redesigned home page);
  • We added 25 new high-value data sets for a total of 27 on and released our data inventory;
  • We hosted an Open Government Employee Awareness Day at Headquarters, featuring a variety of expert speakers and demonstrations of social media tools.
  • We conducted the agency’s first-ever public video contest, How Social Security Has Made a Difference in My Life.

And 2011 is off to a good start. We’ve identified additional data to publish in the coming months. We’re exploring more social media tools for use in public and internal engagements. Just last week, we hosted a webinar for young adults, called “Social Security 101: What’s in it for me?” with broad viewership and a lively question-and-answer session. A recording of the webinar is available on the agency’s website.

During Sunshine Week, we invite you to explore our Open Government Plan and the information available here at our Open Government Portal. Also, feel free to send us your thoughts on open government through the dedicated email box

In addition, today is National Freedom of Information Day. We are very proud of our FOIA program at SSA. Despite having one of the largest FOIA workloads in the Federal government, we have one of the smallest backlogs. In fact, our backlogged initial requests dropped from 147 in fiscal year (FY) 2008 to only 68 in FY 2010.

Also in 2010, we sponsored a 3-day Office of Privacy and Disclosure conference that provided training to agency staff involved in responding to FOIA requests. We made extensive improvements to our public web site, and are working to make it even better by investigating ways to enhance our FOIA Reading Room. We invite you to visit to learn more about our FOIA program.

Stay tuned as we continue making information easier to find and more accessible to the public.

Social Security meets major program targets, identifies funding challenges


FY 2010 Summary of Performance and Financial Information

On February 15, 2011, Social Security Administration published its annual Summary of Performance and Financial Information, which highlights key performance and financial information from the FY 2010 Performance and Accountability Report. In the report, all key performance indicators show improvement, with all but one performance target met. In addition, the summary report shows progress made on identified management challenges and identifies funding challenges for future years. The full Performance and Accountability Report is available at

Read the FY 2010 Summary of Performance and Financial Information report

Social Security Invites the Public to Comment on its Regulations


Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today announced a new way for members of the public to participate in open and transparent government. In response to President Obama's executive order on improving regulations and regulatory review, Social Security is inviting people to provide direct feedback on its rules and regulations. Ideas and comments may be emailed to

Q&A: Social Security CIO On What's Next In Online Engagement


p>Frank Baitman, the Chief Information Officer at the Social Security Administration was recently interviewed by Nick Hoover, a government reporter for Information Week. Among other things, Mr. Baitman describes how social media, digital credentials, and behavior modeling are being employed to get more Americans to use the web to apply for retirement benefits.

Social Security publishes new datasets on


Meeting its commitment to make high-value information available to the public, Social Security published five new datasets on its Open Government portal and the government-wide website. These postings contain data on internet applications for retirement, disability, Medicare replacement cards, direct deposit and change of address.

Go to SSA's datasets page

Go to SSA's catalog on

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